Your little one is a bit over 8 ½ inches in length now, measuring from crown to rump and will weigh just over a pound by the end of the week. Your baby is still quite thin, but will become more and more plumper, as he or she accumulates fat under the skin. As fat increases, your baby’s face is really starting to fill out. Your baby will be kept warm by this brown fat later on after birth. The skin still hangs loosely at this point, which gives your baby a wrinkled appearance. The skin will smooth out as fat deposits collect underneath it during the upcoming weeks and as muscle development continues. Within the next week, your baby’s sweat glands will begin forming under the skin.
The lanugo hair that covers your baby’s body is continuing to grow and may be darkening slightly. Your baby’s soft fingernails are fully formed and growing from their nail beds. You may be quite surprised at how long they are at birth. Some babies have fairly long nails, which require trimming soon after delivery, to prevent them from scratching their face. Don’t forget to pack infant nail clippers in your hospital bag! Your baby will most likely receive his or her first manicure within a few days of birth!
Hearing is well established now and your baby may respond to the sounds around him or her. Very loud noises may bring a reaction from your baby such as a sudden kick, jump or jerk. Your baby continuously hears the sound of your heart beating, your digestive noises (such as gurgling and rumbling), the filling and emptying of your lungs as you breathe and the whooshing of your blood flowing through vessels. Your womb is definitely not silent! A filtered version of your voice and others around you can also be heard by your little one through your uterine wall. Research suggests babies have a strong preference for their mother’s voice, recognize the sound and are calmed by it while still in the womb. Babies’ heart rates tend to slow a little when their mother is talking. Recently, it has been noted that unborn babies may be more likely to hear low-frequency sounds than high-pitched ones; vowels may be heard much easier than consonants. Therefore, your baby may be able to hear you better if you speak softly.
Your cute little belly is gradually getting larger and looking rounder. You may have gained close to 15 pounds by this week, give or take a few pounds. As your uterus expands to accommodate your growing baby, it may start to crowd your other organs. This may make breathing somewhat of a chore later on, since your lungs and diaphragm are squashed a bit. When (and if) your little one “drops” down into your pelvis, it will allow you to breath much easier close to delivery.
If you were to go into labor now, your doctor would try to stop your premature labor or delay it as long as possible. If you were contracting, you’d likely be given fluids, possibly by IV, to make sure the contractions weren’t a direct result from dehydration. If fluids didn’t help, medication may be the next step. For women who are experiencing premature labor, there are typically two different types of medications given. “Tocolytics” help slow down or stop contractions, if administered early enough, so the contractions don‘t have a chance to make the cervix dilate and efface. They won’t help much if labor has progressed and you’ve dilated past 2 cm or if your membranes have broken. “Corticosteroid” (or steroid) medications help the baby’s lungs mature, which improves the chances of survival. Corticosteroids are particularly important if delivery appears to be inevitable. Each day the pregnancy is prolonged, the longer the baby’s lungs have to mature and develop. Even a couple of days matters.
Early detection of premature labor is especially important, therefore you need to be aware of the warning signs. Early signs can include: uterine contractions that don’t let-up (whether they are painless or not), pelvic pressure, abdominal cramping, persistent lower backache, frequent diarrhea, sudden increase in vaginal discharge (especially gushes or trickles of fluid) and vaginal bleeding or spotting. Sometimes the signs can be very subtle, so if you have a feeling that something just isn’t right, don’t hesitate to call your doctor or midwife to have things checked out.